Category Archives: Letters from Armorica

Letters from Armorica- A Leg to Stand On (5 May 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Jack left us this morning after an extended stay; word came that His Lordship needs him in Mont-Havre, as well he might. It was the longest Jack and I have been able to spend together since we were boys, and we spent it as you might expect: up until all hours talking, drinking just a little too much, and making the rounds of the village—for everyone here wanted to meet the hero who lost a leg fighting Le Maréchal.

Truly he was welcomed, and more than welcomed. He spent several days in my workshop while I worked, talking with my covey of older men and swapping outrageous stories with Jacques-le-Souris until they were all howling. The old men spoke of him to their families, which led to a stream of folks coming by to catch a glimpse of him, and to be introduced; and that led to invitations, and after a few days had passed I seldom caught sight of him between breakfast and supper. He had won their heart with his sacrifice, and they won his with their welcome.

When he first came, Jack was inclined to be sensitive about the remains of his leg, and morose with it when he was off his guard—for Jack has always understood his duty to his friends and family, to be of good cheer and keep up appearances. But I could see it in his fatigue at the end of the day, and the look in his eyes when he turned to go. I invited him to join us at the hot springs on the first Sunday afternoon he was with us, and he declined. "No one would care to see this," he said, with an overly casual wave downwards. I fear he spent the afternoon brooding.

But the folk of Bois-de-Bas are no strangers to serious injury—they hardly could be, given the rigors of building a new home in the forests of Armorica. They take it in stride, if I may use so inappropriate an expression; and an injury honorably received is a source of respect rather than revulsion, just as an injury foolishly received will be a source of humor (in others) for the rest of the person's life.

"You could cut a wide swathe her in Bois-de-Bas," I told him. "You're a handsome fellow, and charming with it, and the leg is neither here nor there."

"That last bit is true of a certain," he said. "I can't find it anywhere."

"But don't, please," I said. "Cut a swathe, I mean. It's a small town, and I live here."

He nodded, but he seemed more cheerful after that. And though he spent time with many families with daughters, I didn't hear his name linked with any in particular.

We had Marc and Elise to dinner, and visited them at their farm; and I saw Elise and my Amelie whispering to each other in the corner and giving Jack the occasional look. I didn't inquire as to what they were discussing. It was obvious enough, and besides, there are things man is not meant to know.

Yesterday I was told by several men of the village that I must be sure to bring him to the hot springs after our divine services, and to my surprise he came willingly. He seemed to know most of the men sitting near us by name, and when he told the crowd that he must leave in the morning they drank round after round to his health. Jack being Jack, he showed no effects from it on the walk home.

"I don't suppose you'd care to pursue a career as an innkeeper?" I asked him as he gathered his things this morning. "We have no proper inn here in Bois-de-Bas, and you have the temperament for it. Also the capacity."

He chuckled. "Wouldn't that set the cat among pigeons back in Yorke! It's bad enough that you've flown off as you have, but at least your father can tell himself you're extended the reach of the Cumbrian Former's Guild. But for me to descend to being a tavern-keeper! My parents would never live it down." His eyes got a faraway look. "Attractive idea, though. But no, that's a sergeant's retirement, not a lieutenant's, and anyway I think His Nibs has grander plans for me back in Mont-Havre."

And now he's off to whatever work "His Nibs" has for him. When he had passed out of sight, Amelie turned to me. "He must return soon, n'est-ce-pas? Perhaps you should visit him in Mont-Havre."

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Letters from Armorica- Stress and Strain (23 April 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I write quickly, for it is late—but I must not lose this thought. Cousin Jack is here, in fact he is snoring in the next room as I write, and during the evening he told us of his time with the Army. At one moment he spoke of trying to sleep on a troop transport during a storm, the void winds buffeting it and—and here is the point, Dear Journal—every sinew of the vessel straining and creaking. Even in calm, he said, there were always many small creaks and groans, but in a storm!

This past summer I often had cause to reflect on the hardened portions of the sloops we captured during the war: the keel and a framework around the gunwhales. Why so little, when you could harden more and give the ship a good measure of armor? But now I see, and it has all to do with the formed elements that keep the sloop in the air, and why the elements that move the sloop around the harbor can only move the sloop ever so slowly.

The hardened elements are like my hardened plates: as the ship works in the wind, groaning and creaking, they keep it whole—and collect the effort required to do so. And the lifting elements, for so I shall call them, make use of the effort so collected. The two are in a kind of balance! The movement elements are puny for fear that they will use too much effort—for fear that they will degrade the hardened structure, and eventually cause the sloop to fall from the sky.

If one were to harden the entire hull and support members of the sloop, what effect would that have? I had assumed it was a matter of cost only: that formers couldn't be spared for that. Hardening a wagon or sky-chair is no great difficulty, but a sloop is much, much larger. But perhaps such a hull would be too stable, would work too little, would collect too little too little effort (for which I need a better name).

How does one achieve this balance? There is nothing about this in my father's grimoire; but perhaps my father comes from a long line of incurious and unskilled formers. (It would explain his focus on guild politics.) Do the other masters in Yorke know more? What of the shipwrights? Someone must have recorded how it is to be done, even if not why it is to be done that way. But my grimoire records none of that: it is simply, "do this, and that will follow". And rarely, "My master tried that, and now he is gone."

But someone knows, or at least knew how to balance these things: how to assemble them together so that they will work safely. I will find out; and I will record my findings so that Luc and my future apprentices need not repeat my mistakes. And just perhaps I will find out how to safely do more than my father has ever dreamed of!

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Letters from Armorica- Armorican Reactions (16 April 35 AF)

First Letter

Mon cher Leon,

Thank you so much for getting the recent shipment to us so expeditiously! Your man Guy had a rough drive, so he told me, and certainly both his oxen and his wagon were mud-stained from about shoulder-height on down. How they achieved that while leaving the goods pristine I am sure I don't know; I suppose it is a well-kept secret of the brotherhood of wagoneers.

Guy also told us of the arrival of Lord Doncaster in Mont-Havre with his claims of Cumbrian sovereignty. Indeed, he was most informative in his pungent fashion; and yet I find that there is more I would like to know, and so I turn to you.

I have many questions, and yet being unfamiliar with the political situation in Mont-Havre I am not even sure what I should ask. How did the Grand Parlement take Lord Doncaster's address? What are your customers saying? I know there were Maréchalists in Mont-Havre; what has become of them? And what of the other factions? I am morally certain that at the very least there are those who favor a return to the Provençese crown, should such a thing be re-established; those who favor Cumbrian rule; and those who wish for the Great Lands to go away and leave Armorica to herself.

I've been sitting and pondering that for a bit, and am now of the opinion that that last group probably includes most in Mont-Havre regardless of faction.

But you are in a position to attend to these matters, and I know well that you do so. What can you tell me? And, speaking as a friend rather than as a Cumbrian: I shall quite understand should you find you need to send me only a terse, business-like note in response.

As for us here in Bois-de-Bas, there is a guarded optimism among my fellow citizens. We have all rejoiced greatly at the news of Le Maréchal bad fortunes; and I, being the only Cumbrian in the village, am well-enough regarded. A few wish for the return of the Provençese crown, but for most, it seems, it matters little. I suppose you might think of Bois-de-Bas as having a purer, stronger form of the attitude I described above: just as Mont-Havre wants to be left alone by the Great Lands, Bois-de-Bas wants to be left alone by Mont-Havre (except, of course, for matters of trade). We have much to do here, and we just wish to get on with it. If Cumbria reigns with a light hand, I think they will have no trouble from us.

Finally, I should like to commend to your attention a member of Lord Doncaster's staff, a young fellow named Jack Montjoy. (Jack is my cousin, and my closest friend from boyhood.) He might be a useful contact for you—unless of course you feel you must avoid all overt contact with Lord Doncaster's people. For his part, I should like him to have reason to stay here in Armorica permanently, and so it would do him good to become acquainted with those outside the circle of government. And besides, I think you would like him.

If it pleases you to meet him, write me so, and I shall send him a letter of introduction.

Your friend,

Armand Tuppenny

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Letters from Armorica- The Cumbrian Advance (13 April 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Such news!

I received a letter from my cousin Jack yesterday; it came with our first large delivery of goods from Mont-Havre since the first snowfalls. He has come to Armorica and plans to visit us—news enough, surely—but the real news came with the letter and not in it. Cumbria has claimed sovereignty over Armorica!

Indeed, this is why Jack is here. His Majesty's government has sent a fellow named Lord Dorcaster to be his "governor-general" in Mont-Havre. According to Guy, the wagoneer who delivered our goods, His Lordship addressed the Grand Parlement on his arrival and told them that Cumbria has no interest in Armorica's internal affairs, but only wishes to preserve her from Provençese tyranny.

"And this you may believe if you choose," said Guy, spitting on the ground by his wagon. But he admitted that Lord Dorcaster had made no attempt to claim the former Provençese governor's palace (now the home of what passes for the Armorican government). Rather, His Lordship had rented a house nearby for himself and his entourage.

"And what sort of entourage has he brought with him?"

Guy shrugged massively. "Just a squad of soldiers and a few servants," he said. "And his family, too," he said, shaking his head.

I sent Luc inside with the sack of letters for Amelie to sort, and then Luc, Guy, and I unloaded the goods into our sadly cramped storeroom.

"What are these?" said Guy, jerking his head at the shelf after shelf of warming blocks.

"A mistake," I said. "These boxes should go over here."

It was only after Guy had left that I found I had a letter from Jack and got more of the story.

It seems that Cumbria has Le Maréchal on the run! His troops have been driven out of Andaluse and Malague; more, His Majesty's government has made common cause with certain groups inside of Provençe, and with their help and connivance His Majesty's army is even now approaching Toulouse.

Jack had a bit to say about Lord Dorcaster, whose full title is Dorcaster of Avilona. He was raised to the House of Lords only a few months ago, as a reward for particular gallantry during the seige of Avilona in Malague; his quick action saved the battle and led indirectly to the Cumbria victory in that country. Prior to his exaltation he was but a captain of infantry, and Jack was his first lieutenant. Now he has brought Jack along as his right-hand man. So much for giving Jack a place to stay!

I mentioned to Amelie last night that as the weather was improving, it would soon be time to find Jacques and Madame Truc a home of their own. Jack would be coming soon, and we needed a room for him.

"Non!" she said, much to my surprise. "I will not hear of it." I looked at her in surprise, and she took my head between her hands, drew me close, and kissed me. "Non, we shall simply have to expand our house. For our children need les grand-parents, n'est-ce-pas? And where else shall we get them?"

I thought of what it would be like, per impossible, to have my father living with us in one house, or indeed in one country, and shivered. "Not from Cumbria, not if I have anything to say about it," I said. And then her words registered. "Wait. You said, children?"

"Oui," she said, and blushed. "And if I am to run the shop…"

I kissed her in return. "Yes," I said, "You are right. And perhaps we shall need to get Jean-Paul in to help you." And in truth I am glad, for Madame and Jacques have been very good to me, and I have often noted how they dote on little Anne-Marie.

And I am to be a father again!

I wonder how the Grand Parlement took Lord Dorcaster's address? Guy didn't know. I've heard little from M. Suprenant these past months, due to the weather. I hope I shall be hearing from him soon.

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Letters from Armorica- Speculations (30 March 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have worked from dawn until well after dusk for the past two weeks, and I believe I have now re-hardened all of the dishes and cookware in Bois-de-Bas. Also, I have collected nearly all of the warming blocks; stack upon stack of them clutter the back corner of our store room, each stack tied together with twine and carefully labeled. I have room for them all only because supplies are so low after the winter.

The interval was not without its points of interest, though I have been unable to record them until now. Mme. Coterie, about whom the less said the better, tried to trick me into hardening an old set of plates that had never before appeared in my shop. I did so, and then charged her the normal rate for them. She declined to pay, and when I insisted, she repined, she moaned, she bewailed, she threw herself on my mercy, and my mercy not availing she grew fierce, and cast doubt on my parentage. I threw her over to the mercy of my wife, who has none in such cases, and having paid she departed, grumbling.

M. Gascon, on the other hand, simply refused to hand over his warming blocks. He has pains in his joints, he told me, and needs the warmth all the year round. In fact, he thanked me over and over again for the invention, for he says he was snugger this winter than in any of the past ten years! He is a widower, and takes his meals with the family next door, and so perhaps it will do no harm to let him keep them.

As for me, my life has been too effortful for me to forward my study of effort, as I call it; but though it is tedious and tiring, it takes not much thought to harden a shipload of plates, and so I have had much time for reflection as I worked.

I do not know what effort is, but I plainly see that it is part of the world, and is all around us. If I were to travel to a new land where no man has ever been, and there form a warming block, I have no doubt that the warming block would warm me up nicely. I now see that it would do so by drawing effort from my immediate vicinity.

I also see that hardened objects somehow concentrate effort, making it available for use by formed objects such as warming blocks. Putting the two in proximity establishes a flow of effort from one to the other. The plate or the pot concentrates the effort, and the block somehow receives it, uses it, and then—what? Disperses it? It is gone, in any event; it does not return to the concentrator.

Why doesn't the warming block simply draw effort from the area around it once the effort concentrated by the hardened pot is gone? Why does it proceed to consume the pot itself? And where does the dispersed effort go?

The good news is that it does seem that proximity is required: I spoke with Marc today, and he had indeed been keeping his sky-sled in the shed for his oxen, which he had been warming with my warming blocks.

A warming block can function indefinitely if there are no hardened goods nearby; this I believe. Hardened goods remain hardened indefinitely if there are nothing draining the effort from them; this I know for a fact for at home in Yorke we have dishware that was hardened by my great-great-grandfather. Bring them together, and the one devours the other.

And yet, the great sky-ships, and even the sloops we took from the Provençese in the war, combine hardened elements with motivating elements, and yet these do not devour each other. Are motivating elements somehow different than warming ones? It seems not, or Marc's sky-sled would not have crashed. Both must disperse concentrated effort.

This gives me hope: there is a way to make the two things work together. Perhaps now that I have dealt with all of the dishware in Bois-de-Bas I will have time to try a few things.

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Letters from Armorica- The Flood Begins (16 March 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

The flood has began.

The weather is warming and the snow is melting, the village will be all over mud in a week; but I do not speak of that, but of the ladies of Bois-de-Bas.

Mme. Tremblay came to my shop two days ago, holding the shards of a broken plate. Mme. Simard the butcher's wife came later that day with more. Yesterday they were followed by others.

I had been dreading their arrival, which I knew could not be long delayed; what I had not expected was their diffidence.

"M. Tuppenny," said Mme. Tremblay with an embarrassed smile, "I do not know what I have done. See, the plate, it is in pieces." As though it were somehow her fault for mishandling it, when the whole point of hardened dishes is that they cannot be mishandled.

Except, of course, they can, it seems; and M. Tremblay had been one of the first to buy my warming blocks for his household. I had my answer ready, and making a mental note to thank Luc once again for his perspicacity, I said to her, "Yes, Mme. Tremblay, I know, my Amelie is having the same difficulty. It is nothing you have done. I believe it is something to do with the warming blocks I made for your husband."

Her eyes grew wide, and more than a little indignant. "C'est impossible! I have never—" and she shook her head vigorously—"I, I have never brought them into the kitchen!"

"Nevertheless," I said, "it seems to have something to do with them. Le thaumaturgie, n'est-ce-pas? It is unaccountable." I waggled my fingers.

"Oui, oui, quite unaccountable," she said, nodding wisely as if she knew anything about forming. "So what are we to do?" Now that I had accepted responsibility, as it were, her tone was quite different: the word "we" clearly meant, "You, M. Tuppenny, you!"

"Fortunately," I said, "the weather is warming. If you will have M. Tremblay bring me all of your warming blocks, I will disable them; and if you bring me your dishes I shall harden them once again, and you should have no further trouble."

"But the blocks! L'hiver, it may return next week!"

"Yes, I know, and I hope to find out what is causing the damage so that we can prevent it in the future. But it will take me some time, and meanwhile, your dishes…." I shrugged.

She was forced to agree. "But the blocks, we have paid for them." She looked at me sharply. "You will note down in your ledger that we have returned them, and if they cannot be made safe, zut alors!" Which was quite strong language for Mme. Tremblay.

"Yes, of course. Leave them with Amelie, and she will make the necessary notations. As for your crockery and pots, you may bring them to me."

And with that she had to be satisfied; and with that I had to be satisfied.

And then I went over to the shop, and had a few words with my wife.

"Amelie, dearest," I said, "I have just discovered that Mme. Tremblay has been using some of my warming blocks as plate and pot warmers in her kitchen. Have you, just possibly, been doing the same?"

Her eyebrows flew up—not at the question, but at the degree of my husbandly inattention. "Mais, oui" she said. "It has been so cold, and to put the hot food on cold plates—brrrrrr." She pretended to shiver, which I fear quite distracted me from the main issue for a little time.

"I see," I said at length. "And I suppose you've discussed this with the other ladies in the hot springs?"

She shrugged enormously. "Mais, oui. How not?"

"Yes, I thought so. You must stop using them thus, I am afraid—it is this, I think, that has been damaging your plates."

"O!" she cried.

"Yes," I said. "And I fear the cost of it will be great for us." I told her what I told Mme. Tremblay, and she began to cry.

"O, Armand, I am so sorry, me. I was so proud of you, and so excited, n'est-ce-pas, to share my new trick with the others."

"No, no," I said, "I would have suggested it myself, had I thought of it. No, the fault is all mine. I am trying new things, do you see, and so am finding surprises. It will be a costly mistake, but we will get through it."

We comforted each other for a few more moments, until we heard a customer's footsteps on the porch.

And now the word has spread. We have had to clear a section of the store room, which is now taken up with disabled warming blocks, and my workshop is filled with baskets and sacks of crockery, and I have been working long hours re-hardening dishes.

It has been truly fatiguing, for I must inspect the dishes carefully: if they are undamaged there is no point in expending any effort in hardening them, and yet the inspection itself takes effort. My effort, my own personal effort, that is.

And yet I am glad, for one mystery, at least, is explained, and there is one bright spot. My conjectures are correct, there is some link between the hardened plates and the warming blocks; and if they can be kept separate perhaps the effect will be greatly lessened.

But other mysteries remain. What of Marc's accident with his sky-sled? Why did it fail? I had been considering that it was something of the same kind, that somehow I had exceeded some degree of balance between the number of formed objects that absorb effort, like hardened dishes, and those that consume effort, like warming blocks and sky-sleds, and so there was not enough effort available to keep the sky-sled in the air. But the effect of the warming blocks on the plates seems to be governed by proximity in some way, and Marc's sky-sled was hidden in a shed on his, away from the house-hold.

Which shed, I wonder? Was it near the animals? Perhaps, was it near the goat pen? And perhaps, has Marc been using warming blocks to keep the goats warm? Foolish behavior, if so, for Armorican goats are known to be indestructible. More likely it was the oxen, if so. I must speak to him. Would that I had thought of this yesterday, so I could have spoken to him at the springs this afternoon!

And now I must lay down my pen and pay a visit to Patches the goat in her pen lest she feel lonely in the night and break out to come visit me. Even with her protective gear it is unpleasant to find her at my bedside.

Somehow when I left Yorke I thought that life would be simpler in Armorica. A simple life on the frontier, that is what I was looking for. Adventure, perhaps, excitement certainly, but simple adventure, simple excitement, not these complexities. Goats, forsooth!

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Letters from Armorica- A Dream of Spirits (11 March 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have scarcely been able to sleep these past days, pondering Luc's question: where does the warmth come from? What makes the sky-chairs go? And then, last night—what makes the hardened dishes hard and unbreakable?

I fell into a reverie, there in our darkened room, remembering an absurd notion I'd had, a vision of airy spirits with little hammers and chisels breaking my plates. I had almost an image in my mind of such spirits flying away from my warming blocks in vast cheer and merriment, each tiny spirit bearing a gift of warmth. And other spirits, darker in color, clustering within a dinner plate, their tiny backs pressing against the surfaces, protecting them from knocks and bangs.

It is a foolish idea, and yet in my fatigued state it seemed to me as good an explanation as any I'd considered, and with great satisfaction I was at last able to sleep.

And then this morning I awoke and realized that I'd only put off the problem: even supposing tiny spirits are carrying warmth away from the warming block, where do they get it? Not from the block; I could burn that and get a small amount of warmth, but my warming blocks keep giving.

I was shaving, wincing at the icy water in the basin—for my Amelie prefers me to remain clean-shaven even at the coldest times of the year—when a different image occurred to me. I pictured Amelie's cooking pot, its walls filled with tiny spirits as she prepared dinner. But instead of pushing against the knocks and bangs, the little spirits grabbed them and held them close, filling their little arms with them. And then, in my mind's eye, I pictured a warming block. Spirits were clustered around it—not in it, but around it—and each one had its arms filled with a warm glow. As I watched others joined them.

And then, in my mind's eye, I put the warming block beside the pot…and saw spirits flying from the pot, arms full of knocks and bangs, to the block. And as they approached it the knocks and bangs began to glow.

At that point Amelie interrupted me and pressed a cloth to my cheek, for I had cut myself without noticing.

I have been pondering this all day, sitting beside the stove in my workroom while Luc copies from my grimoire. I do not believe in my little airy spirits, of course, but there is something, some je ne sais quoi, that is shared by all of these things. I hardly know what to call it, or how it can be so.

The best word I have come up with is something like effort. It takes effort to move a sky-chair or a sky-ship. It takes effort to warm a bed. And, although my father taught me to think of hardening as a change in the substance of the thing hardened, it takes effort for a hardened plate or pot to resist knocks and bangs.

Or, no, I see now! I see it! It takes effort to produce the knocks and bangs! It takes effort on the part of an ox to pull a cart, and the cart is moved by it. The effort is produced by the ox, and transmitted to the cart through the yoke, and is so consumed.

And just so is the effort of banging the pot on the stove transmitted to the pot. This wears down a normal pot, which eventually requires the services of a tinker, but in a hardened pot it is somehow taken in, absorbed like this towel absorbs the water from my face. It is taken in, and the plate seems harder because of it.

The warming block receives effort from—where?—and somehow radiates it like warmth from a fire, and we feel it.

It almost seems as if the warming blocks are somehow drawing the absorbed effort away from the hardened dishes and turning it into warmth. Eventually the plates are not only not hardened, but even weakened! And then, because there is less effort available to them, the blocks give off less warmth.

Could it be that simple? I feel that there is something I am missing. Warming blocks should work properly even in the absence of hardened goods. And then, how did my sky-chairs work for so long, over so wide a region, only to start failing now?

I must re-read my grimoire and think deeply about everything it says in the light of these new ideas.

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Letters from Armorica- A Ray of Light (6 March 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It is fortunate that the weather has improved slightly over the last week, for now my warming blocks are failing—and we lost three more of our hardened dishes in the past week. It may simply be propinquity: we have all been spending much of our time in the kitchen. But these broke in the same odd way as the first dish, a week ago.

I have been trying and failing for the past week to make some sense of this. It has seemed to me that all of my forming has been failing—indeed, that it has a brief lifespan. And yet, my grimoire doesn't speak of this. Things once formed remain formed, so saith the masters of the past. Except mine. How to account for this?

I have spent sleepless hours shivering in bed, my head spinning with ever more outrageous notions. For a brief moment one night I convinced myself that it was a side effect of the scent Madame Truc has taken to wearing now that she is a married woman once again…except that, in strict point of fact, she hasn't. My weary mind has conjured up airy spirits who dwell in the grottoes of the hot springs, and who are jealous of my mastery of the sky. I picture them with little hammers and chisels, cutting carefully artless cracks into my plates and drawing the heat out my warming blocks by blowing on them with tiny bellows.

Why airy spirits would need tiny bellows to produce a draft, my waking mind cannot say. And when I blow on a warming block it has no discernible effect.

Today I took several of the warming blocks and the broken plates and an unbroken plate into my workshop for study. Young Luc shivered by the bench, arms wrapped round himself, and looked them over while I fired up the wood stoves for the first time in a week. That is Luc's job by right, but I was so bitterly cold that I preferred to do it myself.

Then we stared at the collection together—crumbling plates, lukewarm blocks. I saw nothing I hadn't seen before, and my mind was a curious blank.

After many minutes, Luc broke the silence. "Master," he said, "where does the warmth come from?"

I looked at him, puzzled. "What do you mean, 'Where does the warmth come from?' It comes from the block, of course."

He shook his head, pointing at the nearer stove. "We put wood in the stove, and we burn it and we warm up, but then after awhile the wood has gone to ash and I have to carry more in from outside, n'est-ce-pas? But the warming blocks don't burn up. D'où vient la chaleur?"

We looked at each other. Then we looked at the broken plates and their crumbling—dare I say, ashy?—edges.

But Luc wasn't finished. "And the sky-wagons. A normal wagon is pulled by beasts. Where does the pull come from in a sky-wagon?" I hadn't spoken with him about Marc's mishap with the sky-sled, but of course he'd been listening.

I thought furiously. "But the great sky-ships," I said. "They work on the same principle as my sky-wagons, but I have never heard of one with these problems. They do age in use because they include many common materials, but their formed parts last for decades. Sometimes, indeed, I believe they are removed and built into new vessels along the same lines."

Luc shrugged elaborately, as well he might.

"You have done well, young Luc," I told him. "Go tell Amelie I said that you might have some jam or some dried fruit, if there is any left this late in the winter."

I have been pondering his notions ever since, my mind whirling. It had never occurred to me before to wonder how forming achieves its effects. One simply does this, and if one has the knack and the skill then that is the result. But Luc is right. How is that a sky-ship, like the Lombard that brought me to Armorica, can go on flying for decades, taking on no fuel; but a common ox has to be fed daily to pull a wagon?

I have much to think on.

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Letters from Armorica- Shattering Experiences (1 March 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have spent the last week brooding over Marc's accident with the sky-sled. I still do not understand what could have gone wrong.

The forming required to make it work is straightforward, if unconventional; the basic techniques were all in my father's grimoire. I woke in the middle of the night earlier this week wondering if I could have copied his grimoire entries incorrectly—indeed, in a dream I remembered just the page and the exact mistake that I had made—but of course the dream made no sense when I awoke, and as my father checked my efforts and beat me if I copied his words incorrectly—

I have written myself into a tangle. The point is, Dear Journal, that any mistakes would have been caught at that time and corrected.

Might my father have made mistakes? It is possible, I suppose, but my father received most of the pages in his grimoire from his master, and he from his, and so on back; and my father was a stickler for training me as he had been trained. The pages my father added on his own are of course less reliable than those of his predecessors; if a former finds an error or a new wrinkle on an existing page he is encouraged to add marginal notes, notes which will be copied into the main text by his apprentices. But come to think of it, my father has added precious few pages, and few marginal notes either. He despises innovation, and he has always been too intent on acquiring power within the guild to spend much time on research.

No, my grimoire is complete and correct, so far as it goes; but of course there are things that neither my father nor his masters knew, and also things his master's master's masters might have known but failed to write down, either because they were secret or because they were commonplace, but now forgotten. I must look elsewhere for a solution.

A few nights ago I retrieved my sky-sled from its hiding place, and tested it within the confines of my workshop. It appears to work perfectly—though I confess I did not raise myself more than a foot or two from the floor, and of course I could not go far or quickly. In all ways it appears to function normally.

How I wish Marc had retrieved the broken pieces of his sled and brought them home with him! In point of fact he burned them rather than carry them or leave them lying about, a decision that I quite understand and might, in other circumstances, applaud. And, of course, it helped him avoid freezing, which I quite approve of. But it is most inconvenient.

I should also like to investigate the remaining sky-chairs and wagons…but I dare not use my sled to fly to L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau, nor indeed would I trust a new sky-chair to take me there in safety until I understand what is going on. And I do not at all understand what is going on—if anything; I suppose it is possible that there was a flaw in that one sky-sled.

I had nearly persuaded myself that this must be the case. And then my Amelie came to my workshop this afternoon, carrying in her apron the fragments of a plate she had dropped. It was a plate I had specially hardened for her quite some time ago now. And yet when dropped it had shattered. Or, rather, it didn't shatter. It broke into large pieces, but the broken edges are soft and I can easily crumble them into a powder with my forefinger.

Of course I immediately examined all of the other dishes in the kitchen. The plates and other vessels that we use daily are strong enough; I tried to smash one on the stones of the hearth and was quite unable.

Was this another bungled effort on my part? But hardening plates is a trivial matter for even a journeyman former, and I have never heard of a hardened plate breaking like this. Am I that incompetent? Or is there something else going on? I am unsure.

The broken plate was a large serving plate we had not used for some time, we rarely having need for a dish so large during the winter months. Amelie had taken it down from the shelf of the china cabinet to clean it—I've no idea why, as the fragments look perfectly clean to me—and it slipped from her fingers and shattered on the floor.

I do not know what to make of this. Did I fail to harden it properly? Is it something to do with not being used? My father and the other masters regularly harden cooking vessels for use by their own households, and as a distinct favor for a very few others; there may well be more hardened dishes in Bois-de-Bas than there are in all of Yorke. And while they could make sky-sleds and wagons as I have, they never do, but confine their efforts to much larger, more expensive items such as sky-ships…which are always made in the classic way.

What do they know that I do not? What did their masters know that they do not?

In the meantime I have something new to keep me awake at night. No one will flying one of my sky-chairs; they are safely out of reach, which is a great and glorious thing. So long as that was the case, I could treat this as an interesting problem to gnaw on and perhaps solve some day. But now I dread the day, a day I fear is not far off, when the housewives of Bois-de-Bas will descend on my workshop demanding that I replace the hardened dishes I made for them. I had best have an answer or my stock in Bois-de-Bas will be low indeed.

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Letters from Armorica- Technical Difficulties (20 February 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I had a troubling visit from Marc Frontenac this noon. Several days ago he received a seeker arrow with word of renewed enemy activity from Camp du Bûcherons, one of our neighboring villages. The notion struck me as quite unlikely, and so it seemed to him as well. Le Maréchal's forces left Amorica months ago, according to our latest news, and seem to be on the run from the Cumbrians; and even if that should have changed, any troops sent to Armorica by either side should have no call to be skulking about in these hinterlands, but would appear openly in Mont-Havre. In any event it is hardly the season for campaigning, not with the snow ten feet deep.

But Marc felt he must check it out; and, what with the snow ten feet deep, he retrieved his sky-sled from its hiding place and used it for his journey. Or, rather he tried. About a mile from Camp du Bûcherons his sled dropped out of the air, plunging him into a snow drift. He had found that if he went too high or too fast he could not keep warm, so he was moving slowly, and low to the ground, and it is fortunate that he or would have been killed. As it is the sled broke in two, but he himself suffered only a few scrapes.

He struggled the rest of the way to the village, where he was not best pleased to discover it was a false alarm: a hunter had gotten drunk and started to see things that weren't there. The villagers were embarrassed, of course, and to make up for it one of them drove him back to Bois-de-Bas in his sleigh yesterday. And today he came to see me.

He was understandably distressed and irate, as well he should be. For my part

I have no idea why the sled should have failed, and I shudder as I think about the sky-wagons that carried my wife and daughter from L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau back to Bois-de-Bas. What if they had fallen out of the sky?

I must never forget that I am in uncharted territory in this work I am doing: formers have not made these kinds of things before, or if they have (as the presence of our sky-ships argues that they must have) then they long ago ceased to do so. Why, when they are so obviously useful? Is it that they cannot be made safe? If so, why have the reasons not been recorded? And why do sky-ships function and my sky-sled fail?

I have much to think on; and I am more grateful than I can express that Marc and I chose to sequester all of the sky-wagons, chairs, and sleds out of reach on L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau until a more opportune time.

I do not believe I shall sleep well tonight.

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